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Guardian, Patriot Make New Friends in Navy's First Port Visit to Yonaguni

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070627-07
Release Date: 6/27/2007 2:58:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan McGinley, American Forces Network Detachment Sasebo and Chief Electrician's Mate (SW) Noel B. Corneja, USS Patriot Public Affairs

YONAGUNI, Japan (NNS) -- The Sasebo-based minesweepers, USS Guardian (MCM 5) and USS Patriot (MCM 7), made a two-day port visit to Yonaguni on June 24-26, marking the first time a Navy vessel has visited the Japanese island since the United States returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

Yonaguni, part of Okinawa Prefecture, is a small island located at the end of the Ryukyu Islands chain.

The 180-person combined crew’s primary focus while there was to establish relationships with the host community. A formal reception aboard Guardian and then an American-style beach barbecue hosted by Patriot were the visit’s key activities, as well as a beach cleanup by Sailors of both ships.

“It’s important [to visit the island] because we have a strong security commitment to Japan, and we make visits to every part of Japan in demonstration of that commitment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Steven H. DeMoss, commanding officer of Guardian.

While enjoying the unique cultural offerings of Yonaguni, Sailors were pleased to able to share American culture with their hosts. More than 100 local residents attended the barbecue, with hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling in the summer air.

Among the local residents in attendance for the festive event was Kenichi Itokazu, a member of Yonaguni town council.

“I am happy to see Americans visiting our island,” said Itokazu. “The grilled burgers and cheese are a real treat, something we never have, and all our families and friends enjoyed it. Please come back; you are more than welcome at Yonaguni island anytime.”

Also as part of the visit, Sailors gave ship tours to the local Yonaguni residents, allowing them to see how a U.S. Navy ship operates. The residents enjoyed the tours, taking numerous pictures.

Likewise, Sailors of Guardian and Patriot enjoyed being able to tour the picturesque Yonaguni. The best part, said most, was the interactions with the local residents.

“The locals received us with open arms,” said Chief Mineman (SW) Maurice Q. Perine. “Everyone really enjoyed the American barbecue at the beach … and adults and children enjoyed the sun, warm waters and the great food,”

Patriot’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Thomas E. Shultz, emphasized the importance of the friendships made during the visit.

“It was really special to be part of this historic visit, but what was even more meaningful was the warm welcome that our Sailors received during the visit,” said Shultz. “I’ve been to a lot of different places during my Navy career, but I must say, that the people of Yonaguni showed more generosity and kindness than perhaps anywhere I’ve ever been.”

Guardian and Patriot, with embarked Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 Det. 51, are currently on deployment in Southeast Asia to support the U.S. 7th Fleet’s interoperability and training commitments in mine neutralization warfare and maritime operations.

Guardian and Patriot serve under Task Force 76, based out of Okinawa with an operating detachment in Sasebo.

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